McAdam: Sanchez impacted Sox' approach


McAdam: Sanchez impacted Sox' approach

When the Red Sox signed Ryan Dempster to a two-year deal worth 26.5 million, a lot of fans rolled their eyes or vocally condemned the move as an overly-generous package.

Sean McAdam says the Red Sox approach was dictated by players like Anibel Sanchez, who just agreed to a five-year deal with the Tigers worth 80 million.

The Red Sox got the impression that Sanchez was looking for four or five years in his next contract and the team just wasn't willing to go that high. With Dempster willing to go two years, the Sox saw him as the top pitcher in a very limited pool of pitchers who were willing to take a short-term contract. With their extra spending money, they decided it was worth the extra money to lock up a pitcher who wouldn't require a long-term deal.

Now that Dempster is on board, giving the Red Sox the reliable veteran arm they've been looking for, McAdam doesn't see the Sox doing anything flashy for the rest of the off-season unless something comes up on the trade market for Jacoby Ellsbury. McAdam says the return in an Ellsbury trade would need to be significant - along the lines of the Cliff Lee offer that floated around recently.

So what's left to do?

McAdam identifies a few depth options the Sox should address:
- A first baseman, preferably left-handed
- Someone who can push Jose Iglesias at shortstop
- One or two starting pitchers who offer depth - the kind of players who could be stashed at Triple-A until an injury pops up

A word of caution: This outlook for the remainder of the off-season is contingent on the Mike Napoli deal being completed. If that deal falls through, the Red Sox will have a lot more they need to accomplish before spring training starts.

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

Will the Harris signing mean more time on the edge for Hightower?

David Harris is expected to be a savvy middle linebacker who will line up his teammates when they help. He's expected to provide some level of leadership, even in his first year in New England, as an accomplished-but-hungry 33-year-old who has not yet reached a Super Bowl. 

What Harris is not expected to do is improve the Patriots pass-rush. He was in on one sack in 900 snaps last season.  

But in a roundabout way he might. 

MORE: How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

There are dominos to fall now that Harris has been added to Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia's defense. How much will Harris play, and whose playing time will he cut into? Those questions don't yet have answers, but one of the more intriguing elements of the Harris acquisition is how he will benefit Dont'a Hightower's game.

If Harris can pick up the Patriots defense quickly -- and all indications are that there should be few issues there -- he could take some of the all-important communication responsibilities off of Hightower's shoulders. 

Ever since taking the reins from Jerod Mayo as the team's signal-caller, Hightower has had to be on top of all requisite pre-snap checks and last-second alignment changes. It's a critical role, and one that Hightower performs well, but those duties place some added stress on the player wearing the green dot. Perhaps if part of that load can be heaped onto Harris' plate, that might allow Hightower to feel as though he's been freed up to focus on his individual assignments.

Harris' presence might also impact where on the field Hightower is used. Hightower may be the most versatile piece on a Patriots defense loaded with them, but with Harris in the middle, Hightower could end up playing more on the edge, where he's proven he can make a major impact (see: Super Bowl LI).

For Belichick and his staff, having the ability to use one of their best pass-rushers -- and one of the most efficient rushers league-wide, per Pro Football Focus -- on the edge more frequently has to be an enticing byproduct of the move to sign Harris. Especially since there are some question marks among the team's end-of-the-line defenders behind Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich. 

We'll have to wait for training camp before we have an idea of how exactly Harris fits in with the Patriots defense. But the effect he'll have on his new teammates, and Hightower in particular, will be fascinating to track.